Willson Contreras (C, CHC): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Cubs offense exploded on Saturday after struggling to hit the side of a barn for most of this season, with Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras hitting a pair of home runs each and combining for five runs scored and six runs driven in in Chicago’s 11-4 rout of Atlanta. Contreras, who went 2-4 with 2 R and 2 RBI on the day, opened the scoring with a 105 MPH missile of a longball off of Huáscar Ynoa, who feels a lot less exciting as a streaming prospect than he did a week ago. He then managed to top that with a 110 MPH screamer in the fourth inning that helped open the floodgates, making it not only two straight games with a homer, but two straight games with a homer breaking 110 MPH, promising power considering how much trouble he had seeing the ball last year. If his current .282/.420/.667 line is remotely close to what we can expect from him the rest of the season, he’ll re-claim a place as one of the best catchers in the game, potentially even playing his way out of Chicago in the process (👀).
Meanwhile, Bryant had a party of his own, going 3-5 with 3 R and 4 RBI to supplement his 14th career multi-homer game, and just his second since 2017, all of which may help assuage year-long concerns about his power output after wrist and other injuries have sapped his hitting strength in recent years. Average exit velocities generally don’t tell you much, but they can be informative on a macro level, and it’s quite good to see that after bottoming out at 86 MPH last season, Bryant’s average exit velo now sits at 89 MPH, which along with his barrel (18%) and hard hit (44%) rates are his highest since his 2016 MVP campaign, indicating that Bryant’s hand issues may finally be solved just in time to earn himself a big payday next season, and perhaps a deadline move out of Chicago from a team that doesn’t appear to be particularly dedicated to being in contention come August.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Brandon Belt (1B, SF): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI.
It’s been an absolutely horrid start to the year for Belt, who entered Saturday with just six hits on the season and just one for extra bases. Saturday, however, may have gotten his groove going, first launching a 400-foot bomb to the right-center field gap in the seventh to end Sandy Alcántara‘s before giving the Giants the lead in the 10th inning with an RBI double. On the whole, Belt is clearly now seeing the ball better than his numbers indicate, with four of his batted balls breaking 98 MPH
Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF, MIL): 3-4, 1 3B, 2 R, 1 SB.
Despite being the ignominious solution to a trivia question posed in the Pitcher List discord earlier on Saturday (fun fact: JBJ is one of four qualified players who has yet to draw a walk this season, h/t Zach Dobroff), Bradley had his biggest game of the 2020 season, filling up the stat sheet with five total bases on three hits, including
Yadier Molina (C, STL): 3-5, 1 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Pitcher List gives a MAJOR shoutout and maybe an award for anyone who had Yadi putting up one of Saturday’s three multi-homer performances, knocking two dingers for the seventh time in his career, and first since mid-2019. While one of them was a wall-scraper with a 25% hit probability, he’s now evened his longball total from 2019 already, and with a .340 average, has come out of the gates as hot as he’s been in years. Yadi is perpetual; Yadi will come back to hit .330 and win a Gold Glove for you if he ever hears you whispering about retirement and/or any other potentially starting-caliber catchers in the Cardinals system.’
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B MIA): 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB.
If we’re about to kick off another Roaring Twenties, a Jazz renaissance may very well be in the cards. The Bahamanian second baseman continued solidifying his status as Rookie of the Year candidate—and perhaps frontrunner—with a two-hit performance that included scorching a 107 MPH liner off of Jake McGee and using his top-notch speed to leg out an infield single. Perhaps most impressively, his two walks now bring his total to nine on the season (to 12 strikeouts), demonstrating excellent plate discipline for a rookie whose batting eye steadily improved as he moved through the minors.
Francisco Mejía (TB): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI.
Five years after almost being traded for Jonathan Lucroy and four years after an admittedly brief MLB debut, Mejía seems to be firmly in post-hype prospect territory and inching towards bust status, but he finally looked the part of a switch-hitting monster behind the palate, launching a 101 MPH screamer against Jordan Montgomery and adding in a run driven in with a 99 MPH double, quite literally doubling his extra base hit total on the season. With Mike Zunino once again struggling to even reach Adam Dunn territory with his batting average, Tampa’s catching situation is worth keeping an eye on.
Yan Gomes (WSH): 3-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Gomes completes the apparent catcher renaissance we have on our hands this morning, having begun Washington’s violence against Luke Weaver with a solo home run in the second inning before tacking on to his big day with a pair of singles, one of which drove in a run and the other of which resulted in a scored run.
Andrés Giménez (CLE): 2-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.
Giménez has impressed me since last year, simply because there aren’t too many 21-year olds who can make the jump straight from Double-A and hit their weight in the majors while playing excellent defense, even if the offense was mediocre at best. Regardless, Giménez seemed to respond well to his Thursday scuffle with perpetual
annoyance instigator ne’er-do-well Adam Eaton with two extra base hits, including a crushing solo home run that nearly ended Sonny Gray‘s day along with a double and his second stolen base of the year, a promising sign for the kid who combined to steal 66 bases in the minor leagues between 2018-19.
Mark Canha (OAK): 1-2, 1 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB.
Despite just a single hit on Saturday, it was a big one, with his third inning home run being a nail in the coffin for Casey Mize‘s 7-2 loss to Oakland. Canha appeared just about everywhere else on the stat sheet with two more runs, a walk, and a stolen base. The former Rule 5 draft pick is spectacular at nothing but solid at just about everything, now leading the AL with 17 runs scored and in possession of a stellar 11:15 K:BB rate.
Xander Bogaerts (BOS): 4-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI.
Bogaerts did his part to wreck the White Sox evening, first hitting three singles off the eternally frustrating Dylan Cease before giving Boston a very necessary four-run cushion with his bases clearing double in the 8th. Though the 28-year old has yet to hit a home run this year, he’s still hitting over .400 with 11 runs driven in, so I don’t think the Red Sox will do too much complaining.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)